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California Governor Signs Comprehensive Sex Ed Mandate

California Governor Jerry Brown advanced two sexual health education laws on Thursday, October 1, 2015. Assembly Bill (AB) 329 mandates sexual health education in grades 7–12 and Senate Bill (SB) 695 requires affirmative consent education for grades 9–12 in some school districts. The Governor has yet to sign AB 775, the “Reproductive FACT Act,” which would require unlicensed clinics providing pregnancy-related services to disclose they’re not medical providers.

AB 329, sponsored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), combines and mandates HIV prevention and sexual health education for students in grade 7–12, effective January 1, 2016. While HIV prevention education had been previously mandatory, the lack of mandate for sexual health education had resulted in uneven sexual health instruction in public schools across the state.

The new law requires comprehensive accurate and unbiased information and the curriculum must include information about “sexual harassment, sexual assault, adolescent relationships abuse, intimate partner violence, and sex trafficking,” as well as “affirmatively recognize that people have different sexual orientations.” The goal of the new law is to equip students with “the knowledge and skills they need to develop healthy attitudes concerning adolescent growth and development, body image, gender, sexual orientation, relationships, marriage, and family.” The law maintains a parental opt-out policy, providing parents the option of excusing their child from the instruction.

(SB) 695, also signed by Governor Brown last week, is the first of its kind in the nation that requires high school curriculum on affirmative consent in school districts that require a health glass before graduation. (SB) 695, sponsored by Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), incorporates the affirmative consent definition, known as “yes means yes,” into the sexual harassment and violence instruction incorporated into the health framework for students in grade 9–12. According to the California Education Code Section 67386:

"An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity. "Affirmative consent" means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent."

Unfortunately, despite these huge gains for school-based sexual health education in California, the Governor has yet to sign AB 775. The California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act, sponsored by Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), would require crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to inform patients that the state has public programs to provide low-cost or free access to family planning, prenatal, and abortion services and care available for eligible women. According to a poll released in mid-September by NARAL Pro-Choice California, an “overwhelming majority of California voters strongly back greater regulation of CPCs.” Having passed both the Assembly and the Senate and sent to the Governor on September 16, many state and national organizations, including SIECUS, have urged the Governor to sign the bill.

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National Coalition to Support Sexuality Education National Coalition to Support Sexuality Education